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OmniPage Maker Nuance Loses Patent Trial Over OCR Tech 56

Posted by timothy
from the not-to-put-too-fine-a-point-on-it dept.
rtobyr writes "The Recorder is reporting that Nuance and partner Mofo (law firm Morrison Foerster) have lost a suit over patent infringement involving Optical Character Recognition against Russian competitor ABBYY Software House: 'Nuance had accused ABBYY Software House of infringing three of its patents and mirroring its packaging. Both companies market software that uses optical character recognition technology, or OCR, to convert scanned images of text so they can be searched and edited digitally. Represented by a team of lawyers from Morrison & Foerster and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Nuance argued that ABBYY's FineReader was little more than a copy of its signature product OmniPage. The Burlington, Mass.-based company also sued Lexmark International Inc. for its use of ABBYY's products and sought more than $100 million in total damages from the two companies. Nuance did not prevail on any claims in Nuance Communications v. ABBYY Software House, 08-0912. MoFo partner Michael Jacobs, who is co-lead counsel for Nuance with fellow MoFo partner James Bennett, declined to comment.'" Update: 08/27 18:43 GMT by T : Sorry for the paywalled link; here's a better one. Update: 08/28 16:02 GMT by T : rtobyr adds: “Sorry about the paywalled link. They must have paywalled it after I submitted the story. It was not paywalled at the time of submission.”
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OmniPage Maker Nuance Loses Patent Trial Over OCR Tech

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  • by CajunArson (465943) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @11:53AM (#44686813) Journal

    1. Article is behind a registration paywall, not that any of the editors bothered to proofread or click the link.
    2. The "editors" probably chose this submission for the sole reason that it says "MoFo" ... I have heard that Beavis & Butthead is back on the air so I guess the Slashdot editors are trying to get back to that level of discourse.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @11:59AM (#44686881) Journal
    How are we suppose to read the article without paying? slashdot isn't as good as it use to be
  • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:10PM (#44687045) Homepage

    Well, I do know Omnipage. It's been on the market for decades, and was acquired by Scansoft and then by Nuance, who are most well-known for their speech recognition technology.

    The software used to be highly rated but fell in popularity over the years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:23PM (#44687245)

    I do developer support for software company that specializes in SDKs that includes (among other things) a pluggable OCR module that has a few OCR engine options... (hence, replying anon) and it's been my experience that all OCR vendors are batshite insane when it comes to trying to protect their intellectual property.

    We used to sell ABBYY as one of our engines, but it was such an unmitigated clusterfark to get the licensing working that we ended up dropping them... internally, we still refer to them as "the OCR engine that shall not be named".

    One engine we currently have requires physical dongles for developers and will quite deliberately crash if you attempt to attach a debugger to the process (good luck troubleshooting stuff)

    One or our engineers worked for a month back and forth trying to just get an evaluation license for one OCR engine and in the end, the process was deemed so egregious we stopped selling their product too.

    I really like the Tesseract engine (a Google Code open source project) but it's slower and less accurate than several of the commercial offerings and is missing features that some folks just can't live without.

    I've used OmniPage ... many many years ago, and their OCR engine wasn't bad back in the day - but couldn't comment nowadays.

  • I hadn't heard of Nuance, but OmniPage has been the cream of the OCR crop for over a decade. I thought it was owned by the Omni Group (who bring us OmniGraffle, OmniFocus, OmniPlan and OmniOutliner), but it appears that's not the case. So the issue appears to be that Nuance doesn't market the company well, not that the product itself is unknown.

    Wikipedia says

    OmniPage is an optical character recognition application available from Nuance Communications.

    OmniPage was one of the first OCR programs to run on personal computers.[1] It was developed in the late 1980s and sold by Caere Corporation, a company headed by Robert Noyce. The original developers were Philip Bernzott, John Dilworth, David George, Bryan Higgins, and Jeremy Knight.[2][3][4] Caere was acquired by ScanSoft in 2000.[5] ScanSoft acquired Nuance Communications in 2005, and took over its name.[6]

    OmniPage supports more than 120 different languages.[7]

    That said, I fail to see how there could be a valid patent dispute... patents still last 20 years, right? 20 years ago was 1993, by which point OmniPage was already a very mature product (they'd been perfecting multilingual OCR on crappy fax-level document scans for 13 years by that point). Any actual novel inventions (software or otherwise) should have already been released to the public. In fact, I believe ABBYY moved from translation services into the OCR realm about the year 2000, when some of the original OCR patents had expired.

    ABBYY was founded in 1989 by David Yang[4] and was named BIT Software before 1997. ABBYY Group headquarters are located in Moscow with representative offices in Germany (Munich), the UK (Theale), the USA (Milpitas, CA), Japan (Tokyo), Taiwan (Taipei), Russia (Moscow), Ukraine (Kiev), Canada (Ontario), Australia (Sydney), and Cyprus.[5] In 2007, a branch specializing in publishing dictionaries, reference books, encyclopedias and guide-books, ABBYY Press, was established.[6] ABBYY also owns ABBYY Language Services, a high-tech translation and localization agency.[7]

    These guys have been squabbling for the past decade, as each encroaches further onto the other's turf.

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:33PM (#44687391) Journal

    I've used tesseract + ghoscript as a front end to do OCRs of PDF documents. From my experience, tesseract is OK if you have original images that are pretty high quality (300 DPI minimum) printed using standard fonts with pretty standard layouts (the newest versions mostly works OK with a basic 2 column format). You'll still only get results in the high 90% range (which sounds good but is actually pretty atrocious compared to high-end OCR systems that are well up into the 9's for reliability). Oh, and even though you specify a language, tesseract has very little contextual knowledge of what it is scanning so you'll regularly see it run together two letters in properly spelled words to come up with mispelled words.

    Oh, and you have to have a blacklist of characters since tesseract is absolutely in love with the idea of the letter A with the circle coming out of the top even though you tell tesseract that you are specifically scanning English documents where you just have the plain ordinary letter "A". A few other characters are like that too.

    If, however you leave the reservation of high-quality scans of standard black & white printed text with normal layouts, tesseract quickly turns into a lovely random noise generator.

  • by fast turtle (1118037) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:44PM (#44688355) Journal

    ReadIris is far better then OmniPage at OCR as it supports multiple Languages plus can scan PDF's and create them.

  • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:07PM (#44688633)

    2. The "editors" probably chose this submission for the sole reason that it says "MoFo" ... I have heard that Beavis & Butthead is back on the air so I guess the Slashdot editors are trying to get back to that level of discourse.

    You can't exactly blame the editors for that one. The firm's domain is mofo.com [mofo.com], and their about page [mofo.com] is titled "About MoFo". The firm fully embraces the name.

  • by tebee (1280900) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:19PM (#44688757)

    Patent Trial Ends in Total Loss for MoFo Client

    By Julia Love Contact All Articles
    The Recorder

    August 26, 2013

    SAN FRANCISCO — After a two-week trial, Nuance Communications Inc. came up empty Monday when a jury found that a Russian competitor had not infringed any of its patents or trade dress.

    Nuance had accused ABBYY Software House of infringing three of its patents and mirroring its packaging. Both companies market software that uses optical character recognition technology, or OCR, to convert scanned images of text so they can be searched and edited digitally.

    Represented by a team of lawyers from Morrison & Foerster and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Nuance argued that ABBYY's FineReader was little more than a copy of its signature product OmniPage. The Burlington, Mass.-based company also sued Lexmark International Inc. for its use of ABBYY's products and sought more than $100 million in total damages from the two companies.

    Nuance did not prevail on any claims in Nuance Communications v. ABBYY Software House, 08-0912. MoFo partner Michael Jacobs, who is co-lead counsel for Nuance with fellow MoFo partner James Bennett, declined to comment.

    From his opening statement to his closing, ABBYY's lead lawyer, Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, urged the jury to honor the American spirit of competition.

    "That's what [this verdict] does," he said in an interview Monday. "It allows ABBYY to continue to compete fairly and on equal footing with all the other companies that are interested in the OCR technology that ABBYY is a real leader in developing."

    The trial before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White revolved around Nuance's U.S. Patent No. 6,038,342, which covers a "trainable template" that is updated during the process of converting scanned images into searchable text. The technology was roundly applauded when OmniPage debuted in 1988, Bennett said during his closing argument.

    "It's not often in a patent case where you have the kind of widespread, third-party corroboration of the breakthrough, revolutionary... nature of an invention," Bennett told the jury. "And that's what we have here."

    Bennett took ABBYY to task not only for infringing Nuance's patents but also for eroding the prices his client could charge for its products with deep discounting.

    "OmniPage and Nuance, from the time that ABBYY entered this market, have been targeted," he said.

    But Ivey insisted that the technology underlying ABBYY's products bears little resemblance to its competitor's. In contrast with Nuance's trainable template, ABBYY's program relies on a system of weighted guesses to determine word variance in context, he explained in an interview Monday.

    "That is a very different philosophical and technological approach," he said.

    Nuance also cried foul over ABBYY's packaging, which for a time made use of similar colors and images. During his closing argument, Ivey questioned the distinctiveness of Nuance's package design. He noted that there had been no documented cases of consumers mistaking the two companies' products. . And he took issue with the suggestion that his client was trying to masquerade as another company.

    "ABBYY has proudly displayed its name on its packages since it entered the U.S.," he said in an interview.

    During his closing argument, Ivey recounted ABBYY's beginnings as a startup, a story reminiscent of many Silicon Valley companies, though it unfolded in Moscow. The company's founder and CEO both testified in English, though it is their second language.

    "Jurors had an opportunity to hear from them directly," he said. "I think that mattered."

  • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:28PM (#44688869)

    ReadIris is far better then OmniPage at OCR as it supports multiple Languages plus can scan PDF's and create them.

    Omnipage 18 (the version I use) can scan PDFs and create them. I do that daily. Did you mean something else?

    Multiple languages is interesting but not very useful to me since I only need English for what I do. I know Omnipage can recognize Asian characters and I'm pretty sure it can handle characters in most languages since they are mostly the same.

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